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Sheriff Stays Busy Repairing Old Monterey County Jail

The Monterey County jail exhibits the term “dilapidated” to the fullest. It smells, it leaks, it’s rusting and basically, Monterey needs a new jail. Unfortunately, authorities are scurrying around to find the time and the money to get it running safely, not to mention the efforts for building a new proper facility.

History of Monterey County Jail, the Numbers and the Future

The Monterey County Jail is located on Natividad Road in Salinas. It is 34-years-old but resembles a building that has gained the wrinkles of a prehistoric caveman. This is mostly due to overcrowding and the wearing down from normal operations, but over time and with more than its fair share of inmates, the building is crumbling.

The jail is operated by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office.  They have revealed that the jail has remained overcrowded since 1984. Since then, authorities have tried to stretch their precious tax dollars to repair what is necessary in order to keep the jail up to par with health and safety regulations, but it’s not an easy task.

The jail was originally designed to hold up to 827 inmates at one time. Commonly, as many as 1,100 people are being held in Monterey County Jail. It is said that the Monterey jail remains at approximately 125% over the specified capacity.

Of course, Monterey County jail isn’t the only place that has overcrowding issues. Many jails across the state of California are experiencing the same problem.

On the other hand, it is to the public’s knowledge that Monterey County Jail has never been served with a court order to reduce its population. According to the Monterey County Civil Grand Jury, they’ve told the department how well-managed the facility is.

However, in the summer of 2008, the Civil Grand Jury did encourage officials to take advantage of some of the AB 900 fund, supplied by the state which was available. Unfortunately, after two months, the county announced that the chance had been missed. This was due to the local officials failing to ever prospect for a new re-entry facility site which would have helped with the overcrowding.

The officials did try to secure a site near Natividad Medical Center, but residents opposed the plan.

Currently, there is word that a second fund may become available for the same purposes. Governor Jerry Brown revealed that he plans to propose a state budget that requires local counties to take responsibility of those low-level, juvenile offenders, parolees and rehab programs. The plan is to close the state’s $25.4 billion deficit, by shifting the state’s detention facilities to county custody. This would propose the transfer of approximately 1,300 juveniles and tens of thousands of adult inmates who are convicted of less severe crimes.

In regards to the Monterey Jail and even other county jails with overcrowding problems, the transfer of inmates resulting for the Governor’s proposal,  would increase the population making Monterey over 130% capacity.

Not only would Monterey County Jail see an increase in their over-populated facility, but the safety of both inmates and officers will be even more at-risk and probably rise to a threatening level.

Currently, even with the overcrowding issue, the Monterey County jail is still able to staff enough people to meet regulations and the same overcrowding issue hasn’t caused any related deaths.

The Mysterious Monterey Jail Complex

Some people like to refer to the Monterey County Jail as the Winchester Mystery House. The Winchester is known for its monstrous features, opening doors to nowhere and stairs that lead to no place.

The Monterey County Jail in 1970 was 5,944 square feet and first served as a rehabilitation facility. Seven years later it was transformed into a main jail for both female and male inmates and expanded to 38,666 square feet. In 1984 and again in 1994, the jail was expanded to 167,289 square feet.

Even though the facility is seeing its unfair share of deterioration, officials still try to repair what they can such as in the last year, 18,000 pounds of salt was purchased in order to soften the water supply. That not only helped the inmates to have a more decent shower, but it also helped the buildup in the old pipes. However, the salt also erodes the pipe itself, so now they are seeing quite a few busted pipes.

Another incident that needed approximately $100,000 for repairs was a sinkhole that was conveniently placed in the kitchen. So, instead of fixing the pipe structure, they had to fill in a giant hole.

Other fixer-uppers that have been of recent were the $53,000 installation of a new roof over the women’s part of the jail and a $73,000 repair on three dorm rooms.

Most of the rehabilitation part, since it has been upgraded to a medium security facility, of the building is used for sentenced inmates, but due to the overcrowding, the inmates with pending cases are all intermingled.

Much of that part of the building has water damage, mold, rust and mildew. Furthermore, their giant kitchen facility will have to be “out of order” for pipes to be replaced in the near future, which is expected to cost about $250,000.

With the way that the economy is and the impact is has had on budgets for the state, the only way to get the repairs done is by revealing the job and allowing repairmen and companies to bid on the project, in order to secure the lowest price.

Other dilapidated features are the D dorm where there is a bacterial infestation, mildew, and extremely poor air circulation.


There are certain rules and regulations that all jails in California must follow and Monterey County Jail is trying to do so. They meet and maintain the minimum standards by giving inmates the right amount of calories daily, clean clothing and a certain amount of visiting hours.

The last inspection that took place ordered the Monterey County Jail to install light dimmers in the area where inmates who are mentally disabled are kept.

Even though the next AB900 might roll around and give the Monterey Jail a chance to claim some extra funds, it won’t be enough to fix everything. Mostly, it will be only extreme necessities. The money supplied won’t be enough to build a new jail facility, which is crucially needed.

So far, the AB900 has approved funding for the jails in San Bernardino and Calaveras counties for expansion.

Funds For a New Jail

Apparently, a spokeswoman from the county, Maia Carroll, revealed that $1 million had been set aside for the Monterey County Jail to do repairs, but of course, it wouldn’t be enough to build a new facility.

Most officials, who work in correlation with the jail, feel that even though there isn’t enough money to do what they need, they can still make the jail stand for as long as they need it to.

Source: The Salinas Californian, "Repairs On Decades Old Monterey County Jail Keeps Sheriff's Office Busy," by Sunita Vijayan

Published: 03/03/2011